Tuesday 21 May 2019

Graduate Nurses Sonia Um and Steph Wylie are currently experiencing a rotation in Bass Coast Health’s Palliative Care Unit in Armitage House at Wonthaggi Hospital, as part of their Graduate Year after completing their nursing studies at University.


Both say they chose nursing as a career because of the many opportunities offered by the profession. But the ‘care’ aspect of nursing appealed to them both as well.

“During the end stages of my Grandfather’s life, my family and I were supported and comforted by the most amazing staff and I aspired to be like them”, says Sonia.

While Steph says she hasalways had a passion for helping and supporting people. “Nursing was something I wanted to do straight out of high school”, she says.

Sonia and Steph both had some experience in caring professions prior to nursing – Sonia as a Disability Support Worker and Steph as a Personal Care Assistant.

Sonia admits to being slightly nervous about her placement at Armitage House, which is a rehabilitation, geriatric evaluation and management, and palliative care service. “I was a bit overwhelmed at the amount of possible diagnoses I would have to research”, she says. “But this experience has been great and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it”, she says.

Steph agrees that the rotation has been enjoyable, and thinks it’s mostly due to the satisfaction from knowing she’s made a difference.

“Palliative care can be confronting for patients and their families and being able to provide them with the information, comfort and support they need is something that makes a huge difference. Knowing as a nurse that I am able to make this journey that little bit easier is very rewarding”, she says.

Sonia agrees, adding, “It’s special to be providing palliative care. You definitely develop a bond with patients and their families. And with that connection comes trust - these family members are trusting you to look after their loved one during their end of life. It is so important to empathise with patients and try to understand what they’re going through”.

Both Sonia and Steph are reflective when they consider what their experience has taught them so far.

Sonia says, “Life-limiting illness is confronting. These patients know they are dying and, for the most part, have an acceptance they are going to die. It’s been a huge learning curve”.

Steph too, says that she has learned a lot. “People have their own beliefs and as nurses we have to respect their wishes and do what we can to ensure they are comfortable and that their family has the support and assistance they need. Palliative care in Armitage house is exceptional”.

Both say the thing that stands out the most for them about providing palliative care is the gratitude expressed – by both patients and families.

“These patients inspire you to provide the highest quality of care you possibly can. They thank you for the tiniest things and it makes you realise just how important and privileged our role is”, says Sonia.

Steph says, “I can’t get over the sincere appreciation the families feel. It’s a nice feeling knowing you made such a hard and difficult time that little bit easier by being there to answer any question and provide the support they needed”.

Looking to the future, both nurses say they have benefitted immeasurably from their time in the Palliative Care Unit at Bass Coast Health.

“I’ve gained many clinical skills during my time nursing in Armitage and I know this will be very beneficial to my future practice. I’ve learned just how rewarding palliative care nursing is”, says Sonia.

Pictured above: Bass Coast Health Graduate Nurses Steph Wylie (left) and Sonia Um (right) with Armitage House palliative care patient Bill Batten.